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Estate Administration

What does this process involve?

As the Executor of a deceased’s estate, your first obligation is to ensure that all funeral and burial arrangements are made and paid for, and to safeguard the assets of the deceased. The Executor is the only individual with the legal authority to contract for funeral and burial arrangements. These expenses can be paid out of the deceased’s assets and banks will typically issue a bank draft directly to the funeral home. Moreover, the Canada Pension Plan death benefit is intended to cover at least a portion of the funeral expenses and should be applied for as soon as possible.

Once these initial arrangements have been made, the next step is to compile a list of all of the deceased’s assets and approximate values as of the date of death. Typically, the Executor will need to contact the banks and investment companies with which the deceased held accounts. Additionally, the Executor needs to create a list of all debts and liabilities of the estate.

As Executor, it is also necessary to make a list of those who must be legally notified of the death. These individuals include: the beneficiaries named in the deceased’s Will, those entitled to share in the Estate under the Succession Law Reform Act (where there is no Will), the Office of the Children’s lawyer (where beneficiaries are minors), current and/or previous spouses, children, other next-of-kin, and any individual who may make a claim on the Estate.

Acting as an Executor can involve a significant time commitment, and it is recommended that an Executor maintain a record of all money spent or received as Executor/Estate Trustee. It is also good practice for the Executor to record his or her communications and steps taken as Executor – for example, phone calls made, interviews attended, mail sent or received, time spend, and so on.

Who has authority to act on behalf of the deceased or his or her Estate?

Once the Executor named in your Will takes possession or control of your Estate, he or she becomes a “trustee.” This means that he or she is holding the deceased’s assets “in trust” for the beneficiaries of the Estate. The duties of the estate trustee include:

  • complying with and meeting all of the legal and financial requirements of settling the estate
  • identifying, collecting, evaluating and managing the assets until they can be distributed or sold; and
  • resolving the estate’s tax and debt issues.

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